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Actually, there IS crying in baseball: Marketing lessons from those Amazing Mets

The New York Mets have had quite a week! From dramatic trades that never happened and those that did to an offense that has taken the National League East by storm to perfect games through the seventh inning. It is {FINALLY} fun to be a New York Mets fan. And that’s before we even start talking about nicknames like “Thor” and “The Dark Knight” or the trend-setting hairstyle of a certain 27-year old pitching All Star.

Consider the Wilmer Flores trade/no trade drama. Reports say that a fan following Twitter during the Mets vs. Padres game yelled “good luck in Milwaukee” while Wilmer Flores was at bat. Meanwhile, David Wright comes to dugout and says, “they are saying on TV that Wilmer has been traded”. Manager Terry Collins responds: “Unless that {dugout} phone rings, there is no trade.” And Collins keeps Flores in the game.

Flores gets standing ovations, thinks he’s being traded and cries openly on the field, all while he is trying to play his position at 2nd base. 1986 World Series Champion and Mets’ commentator, Keith Hernandez, could not even call the game from his post in the booth and he always has something to say. Certainly, Wilmer’s tears mesmerized viewers. New York fans connected in a big way to this young man, to his humanity, his vulnerability—and to the team. Maybe the other player in the trade failed the physical. Maybe social media got ahead of itself based on a tweet from an overzealous journalist from Milwaukee. I would like to think that maybe, just maybe, the Mets’ management saw how much the Mets fans connected with Flores and that the engagement with fans had gone to another level. Now was not the time to make what would have been an unpopular trade as the team makes a run at the playoffs.

So, what marketing lessons can we learn from the last week of Mets Madness?

#1 Social media is the new market research. Once the trade news broke, Mets’ stakeholders—team alumni, fans, sportscasters—all weighed in, giving Mets’ leadership lots of insights into the public perception of their management practices and to the intangible market value of its young players. The social channels provided answers to unasked questions.

#2: You share control of your brand. At best you are in a constant communication and negotiation with your fans and customers to determine what your brand really stands for in the marketplace. But you have to be in the conversation. From rumors the Mets front office leaked the new of Flores’ trade to the calls on social media to take Flores out of the game after the news leaked, the author of the Mets narrative changed several times in the course of one evening.

#3: Your fans and customers are looking for ways to connect. Now more than ever, they want authenticity, humanity, and honesty. From sportscasters to everyday fans, people felt bad for Wilmer. They wanted him to be OK. And they really, really appreciated knowing how much it meant to him to play for the Mets. I’ve been told to “care less” in work situations—but I’m with Wilmer. Put it all out there. It might make you the goat in some cases, but at least people always know where you stand—and more importantly, you know you held nothing back.

As your organization considers social media strategy, brand strategy, and customer engagement strategy, make your plans but remember that it is the unexpected catalyst that can provide the greatest opportunity to connect, if you are listening. Be ready. And Let’s go Mets!

Engaging effectively with your local community is not only socially responsible—it’s smart. Carla is the founder of Hatched, a brand and marketing strategy firm that helps businesses develop their Social Smarts TM.

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